NEWS: The Des Moines Register: Health Care for 10,000 Iowans in Limbo Over Communications Snarl

December 19, 2013

#Obamacare Delays Threaten Integrity of Medicaid Program, States’ Ability to Process Applications

Iowa HHS Official: “If someone needs to see a health care provider during this interim period, we can’t guarantee coverage.”

Among the health law’s many delays was a lag in the federal government transferring information to states for newly eligible Medicaid applicants who sign up through HealthCare.gov. Energy and Commerce Committee leaders voiced concerns about this delay and the incomplete data set being sent to states in an October 24 letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but the administration’s response failed to quell the committee’s and states’ concerns. Chairman Upton raised these concerns to Secretary Sebelius about the administration’s decision to allow states to use incomplete information to enroll individuals in Medicaid, ultimately threatening the integrity of the program itself.  The Des Moines Register explains that in Iowa, “federal officials have not yet sent complete information on those people to state administrators, who are supposed to review the applications and enroll people in the programs,” leaving more than “10,000 Iowans in limbo.”

 December 19, 2013

Register Exclusive: Health Care for 10,000 Iowans in Limbo Over Communications Snarl

Thousands of modest-income Iowans who filled out health insurance applications via the government’s new online marketplace could be without coverage on Jan. 1, because of a lack of communication between federal and state officials.

The issue involves people who might qualify for Iowa’s version of Medicaid, the public insurance program for the poor, or related programs. The federal website, healthcare.gov, has made an initial determination that more than 10,000 applicants should qualify for the public insurance, according to a report issued last week. But federal officials have not yet sent complete information on those people to state administrators, who are supposed to review the applications and enroll people in the programs.

The upshot is that some Iowans who dutifully signed on to healthcare.gov, worked their way through online glitches and thought they would receive public health insurance could be disappointed if they need to see a doctor in early January.

Percy Smith of Des Moines fears he’ll be one of those people. “I’m losing my optimism, because we’re getting close to January, and I don’t know if I’m going to be covered or not,” he said this week.

Smith, 35, typed all his information into healthcare.gov several weeks ago. The system seemed to show that his annual income is more than he really makes as a tour-bus driver, he said. But then it indicated that it would send his application to state Medicaid officials.

The Iowa Department of Human Services installed a $59 million computer system this year, financed mainly with federal money tied to the Affordable Care Act. One of the system’s main tasks is to accept information from healthcare.gov to enroll Iowans into Medicaid or related programs.

A spokeswoman for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said federal officials have sent such information to 10 other states, and they are working to send it to Iowa and the rest. However, she couldn’t say whether the information would be transmitted to Iowa by the end of the month.

Iowa Department of Human Services spokeswoman Amy Lorentzen McCoy said Wednesday that Iowa officials have not yet received enough information to process 7,400 applications, representing 10,400 Iowans. The applications are from people whom healthcare.gov preliminarily determined could be eligible for public programs such as Medicaid or Hawk-I, which covers children from moderate-income families.

“Federal officials have indicated that they will send more complete information by the end of the month, and then the state will begin making determinations,” McCoy wrote in an email to the Register. “We are working to ensure that most Iowans who applied at healthcare.gov and who are eligible for Medicaid (or Hawk-I) will still have coverage effective Jan. 1.” However, she said, “if someone needs to see a health care provider during this interim period, we can’t guarantee coverage.” …

Read the complete story online here.

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